Health in All Policies – the transport connection

A few quick reflections on the thought provoking Health in All Policies conference we were a sponsor of on Wednesday and which our AD Rebecca Fuller spoke at (as part of our long term aim of getting better coordination across the health and transport sectors) 

– shamefully, health inequalities in this country are getting worse 

– all the focus in the public and media debate health is on clinical care (thus on transport the focus is air ambulances and free hospital parking) whereas the relative quality of clinical care is not the main factor in health outcomes. It’s wider economic, environmental and public health factors. The right transport policies can contribute to all these factors (such as promotion of active travel and healthy streets)

– having said that ‘social prescribing’ for some health problems is in vogue, as is a more place based approach to recent health reforms, which could help

– there’s a long way to go in getting the two sectors to understand what makes the other sector tick and although there is good guidance out there (including our transport and health hub on the UTG website) how do we get greater awareness of what’s our there?

Lots more to do then but with the CEO of NHS England now on record as saying the NHS has to reduce its environmental and transport impacts there’s some ways forward too. On which more soon!

 

Active travel: solutions for changing cities

Over the last decade promoting active travel has moved from the fringes of urban transport policy to a much more central role in the planning of cities and their transport networks.

This is because the promotion of active travel, and the creation of places and streetscapes where people want to walk and cycle, is such a good fit with where cities that are going places want to be.

Those cities want to be healthier and happier places where the costs of treating diseases associated with inactive lifestyles and poor air quality are being tackled. Cities which are places where good growth happens because they are great places to spend time in and people positively want to visit, live, work and invest in them. Cities that want to make the most of available road space by prioritising the most space efficient ways of getting about.

The big shift in thinking in the value of investing in, and promoting, active travel is reflected in a new wave of influential city active travel commissioners, in the benevolent arms race between cities on spend per head on active travel and in the re-shaping of streets from cycle superhighways to healthy streets. It can also be seen in the greater number of cyclists and pedestrians where effective infrastructure and programmes are put in place.

Having said that there is a very long way to go before all Britain’s cities get close to catching up with where many counterpart Nordic, Dutch and German cities have been working towards for much longer. We have a long cycle path ahead of us and part of the role of the Urban Transport Group is to accelerate the take up of what works on active travel. Our new report – active travel: solutions for changing cities – is part of that process.

It shows how and why active travel schemes can work in any urban area – from gritty Northern cities to the heart of the City of London. And it also shows the potential to go further and faster on implementing more good schemes.